Soul Searching: What Do You Bring to the UC Vendor Relationship?

As more businesses begin to adopt unified communications (UC) technology, it can be tempting to follow the crowd. If a particular vendor or solution seems to be working well for other organizations, shouldn’t it work for your company too?

Unfortunately, the answer to this question is “Don’t be so sure.” A one-size-fits-all approach to unified communications may meet some of your needs today (if you’re lucky), but don’t you and your employees deserve to have all of your needs met? How can you be sure you’re picking a UC vendor that will help your company succeed today, tomorrow and 10 years from now?

While it’s important to carefully review the different providers in the unified communications space, making the right choice actually begins by looking within your own organization. Assuming you know what your employees need is dangerous. Companies need to ask the tough questions about what’s working, what isn’t and what’s really needed in order to come to the vendor table prepared and properly armed to make the best choice for a relationship that will stand the test of time.

If you’re not sure how to get started, we have five questions to ask to make sure you dig deep within the soul of your business and uncover all of your communications needs.

Unified Communications Analysis: What Do You Really Need?

The questions below can help your business get to the bottom of what your communications needs really are. Be sure to involve stakeholders from all parts of the business when seeking answers to these questions. Otherwise, you risk missing out on important information that can help lead you to the ideal UC vendor.

What Type Of Workforce Do You Have?
If you’re like most companies, your workforce changed a lot over the past year and a half. While only 30% of employees worked remotely before the pandemic, 73% of employees want flexible remote options to remain on the table in the post-pandemic world. Many companies are permanently adopting a hybrid model, giving employees the flexibility to switch between working from home and in the office. The type of workforce you have has a direct correlation to the communications tools you need. For example, capabilities such as video, voice and chat in one integrated solution, web and mobile applications and a single point of access for all communications tools makes it easy for employees to work from anywhere and from any device.

How does your team prefer to work?
After steadily increasing over the past ten years, employee engagement decreased from 22% in 2019 to 20% in 2020 thanks to – you guessed it – COVID-19. Not surprisingly, the daily stress felt by workers increased from 38% to 43% during the same period. Believe it or not, unified communications can help with both engagement and workplace stress, so managers and executives need to take this into account when thinking about requirements. Our suggestion? Go straight to the source and poll your employees. Do they want access to shared workspaces for easier collaboration on projects? Is Outlook and calendar integration important? Where does a mobile-first design rank? When you take the time to find out which communications tools and features your staff most desire, you increase your chances of picking a solution that can improve engagement and make the workday less stressful.

How important is security?
Every organization needs to keep security a top priority, but it’s even more critical for companies handling highly sensitive information or subject to certain regulations. Document all of your security needs, so you can be sure to select a vendor who can check off every box. MiCloud Connect and Teamwork from Mitel, for example, are built on trusted public cloud, delivering industry-leading reliability and security to deliver uptime as well as SOC2 and HIPAA compliance. 

Do You Want To Leverage Existing Infrastructure?
Your current setup is unique to your business. What works for another company (even one in your own industry) isn’t going to necessarily work for you. Do you need your UC solution to make use of your existing systems? Are you already in the cloud or do you need more time? Answers to these questions can help eliminate vendors who may try to force you to rip out your existing infrastructure and migrate fully to the cloud on day one. Perhaps you need a vendor like 4Sight – one who will work with you to create a communications solution that works with your needs today while building a solid foundation for the future and lets you grow and evolve at your own pace.

What Does The Future Look Like?
You probably have a vision for the future of your business, but if you’re truly honest with yourself, you’ll admit your plans may change. It’s important to discuss your future plans with potential UC vendors, but it’s just as critical to think about how you can plan for the unpredictable. How can a vendor support your future goals and the possibility of them shifting? Perhaps you need a solution that can easily scale up or down as the market changes. Or maybe you need a vendor that’s always looking ahead for you, anticipating your future communications needs.

While your business may be eager to jump into a relationship with the first unified communications vendor you speak to, a wiser approach is to turn inward first. Asking the right questions of your own staff can help organizations discover what they really need in a UC provider – so you can be confident during the selection process. With a little bit of soul searching, you can find a match made in communications heaven. 

This blog post was first published by Mitel.


Five Ways to Ensure Your Employees Have What They Need Post-Pandemic

If there’s one lesson the COVID-19 pandemic taught people and businesses globally it’s that everything can change in an instant. While we can’t anticipate whether we’ll ever again face changes as sudden and severe as the pandemic introduced, most of us are taking steps to ensure we’re better prepared to handle unexpected events in the future. 

For businesses looking at the next steps for success, there’s a lot at stake. Many businesses experienced lengthy and costly disruptions during the pandemic, and they’ll want to do everything they can to mitigate the risks of future disruptions. To help cement their long-term success, every business will need to ensure their teams have solutions that allow them to work efficiently and effectively, no matter what unforeseen circumstances come their way.

As you evaluate where you are today and where you need to go, here are a few suggestions to keep in mind.

Start By Evaluating What Worked Well And What Didn’t

To cope with the pandemic, most businesses were forced to make unbudgeted investments to spontaneously support a vastly larger remote workforce. Some of those investments will be worth maintaining, while others met a short-term need, but now need to be updated or replaced with more cost-effective and flexible solutions that will increase productivity long-term.

As you’re making your assessments, take a broad perspective. Look at the solutions and processes your teams are using today, but also consider what you’re missing, and what you might need in the future. An employee survey can be a good way to identify pros, cons and gaps in your current solutions. Your teams’ responses will help you determine:

  • Which solutions are used most often, by which team members and for what purposes.
  • Whether generational work styles and preferences are affecting solution usage.
  • The types of solutions that will deliver maximum benefit to your employees today and longer term.
  • Whether there are opportunities to update the solutions in use with more advanced and tightly integrated technologies, or whether it makes sense to replace existing solutions with more future-friendly technologies.

Assume You’ll Be Permanently Supporting A Hybrid Workforce

In the post-pandemic world, many offices will never again experience all staff working on-site at the same time. At least some percentage of the workforce will always be working remotely — and the mix of on-site and remote workers may change daily. 

This shift means businesses will need more meeting rooms and collaborative spaces instead of individual workspaces for everyone. Hot-desking, or workspace sharing, will become commonplace. And everyone will need the ability to easily access all of the applications and tools they rely on whether they’re working in the office, at home or while on the road. 

To meet these new requirements on a permanent basis, you’ll need to ensure apps and tools are provided in a very flexible way, but with no compromises to data security or compliance. All data must be fully protected and comply with corporate policies and industry regulations no matter where people are located or which device they’re using.

Focus On Communications And Collaboration Solutions

The communications and collaboration solutions you adopt affect every aspect of your internal and external operations. With the right deployment strategy and solutions, you can:

  • Help on-site and off-site team members efficiently and productively work together, no matter their role, experience level or preferred work style.
  • Create a business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) plan that ensures everyone in your organization can continue to communicate and collaborate with one another and with partners, suppliers and customers without interruption, regardless of what’s going on in the outside world. This includes the ability to quickly pivot and ask all employees to work from home, or from satellite locations, with minimal disruption, whenever needed.
  • Enhance the customer experience with omnichannel communications that include traditional voice and web interactions, social and mobile apps and services, advanced data analytics and integration with customer relationship management (CRM) and other back-end systems.

The key is to ensure your communications and collaboration solutions are fully integrated. When people can switch seamlessly between voice, text and video conversations on any device, they can work in a more natural and intuitive way. And they’re better able to focus on the topic being discussed rather than how to manipulate multiple disparate tools and apps.

Explore New Technologies With Your Entire Organization In Mind

As you evaluate the technologies and solutions that are best aligned with your business goals and workforce requirements, you’ll no doubt consider the merits of cloud-based solutions. According to market research from Frost & Sullivan, when technology solutions are delivered from the cloud, businesses can:

  • Reduce costs for hardware and software maintenance
  • Reduce the risks of app, tool and service downtime
  • Free IT resources to develop innovative solutions to tough challenges
  • Accelerate delivery of new services and applications
  • Increase agility and market responsiveness

While cloud-based solutions are a great way to efficiently deliver a consistent set of features and functions to highly dispersed teams, it’s also important to understand what these changes mean for the different groups in your organization. For a successful transition, you’ll need to consider how your move affects:

  • Your workforce. Industry research shows that Gen X employees have different workstyle preferences than Gen Y and Gen Z employees. The generational profile in your organization will influence the speed and ease with which people adopt cloud technologies.
  • IT. These teams are used to providing on-site services. They’ll need to adapt their focus areas and priorities to help your workforce understand, and make optimal use of, solutions delivered from the cloud.
  • HR. These teams will need to help hybrid on-site and off-site teams adapt to new ways of working together and keep morale high.
  • Facilities management. As people try different ways of working, facilities teams will likely have to adjust space allocation multiple times. This need will diminish over time, but it will be important for team members to feel they can work productively from the office or from home. 

Rely On An Expert Partner

4Sight Communications specializes in helping businesses of all sizes and types navigate the new normal, do more with the solutions they already have and migrate to cloud-based communications, collaboration and contact center solutions at the pace that’s right for their business. We understand there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and we are fully equipped and ready to help you implement the solutions that best fit your unique requirements

This blog post was first published by Mitel.


Do You Know What UC Solution You Really Need?

As many organizations continue to grapple with what the future of the workplace will look like for the long term, it can be challenging to know whether you’re making smart technology investments.

Not surprisingly, Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) is a major area seeing growth. According to research firm Metrigy’s 2021-2022 global study on workplace collaboration, 82% of companies are using video for most or all meetings, and 57.1% are using team collaboration apps as work hubs. In fact, 72% of executives expect to raise spending on virtual collaboration tools, says PWC.

But with constant change, how can you be confident you’re making investments that will help your business meet the needs of employees and customers today while also supporting future growth? Cloud services certainly make it easier to scale and add new features as needed, but there’s a bit more to the equation that demands consideration.

For instance, how does the unified communications (UC) solution you select fit into the bigger business picture? Are you choosing a reliable UC vendor who will be there for you and support your current and future needs?

We believe every business manager should ask themselves four questions before making a commitment to a communications provider. Keep your answers close by as you weigh your UCaaS options so you can be confident you’re entering into a healthy, long-lasting relationship.

Four Questions To Uncover What Your Business Actually Needs

1. Where Are You In Your Digital Transformation Strategy?

Perhaps you have a formal digital transformation strategy―or maybe it’s on the docket for 2021. It’s important to be honest about where you are on the digitization path, where you want to be and whether you have the right resources on hand to help you get there. Some UC solutions don’t let you grow at your own pace.

Don’t be afraid to ask vendors tough questions about their ability to help your business on its unique journey. If, for example, you’re not ready for a complete cloud deployment, can the provider give you the communications tools you need today to succeed? How easy will it be to migrate to the cloud when you’re ready?

2. What Technologies Will You Need To Future-Proof Your Organization?

Just because most companies are using video conferencing doesn’t mean it has to be top of your list. Maybe an integrated contact center is your highest priority. Mitel has a number of options available to help you create a more engaging customer experience and empower your employees to create happy and loyal customers.

For those who are focused on collaboration, think about which technologies will best serve you today and tomorrow. Shared workspaces, single-click access to real-time audio and video conferencing and a seamless experience across multiple devices are just a few of the features you may need right now. Unified interfaces and omnichannel communication are other popular features for 2021.

But what might you need in three, five or 10 years? You may not know the answer, so look for a UC provider with a focus on innovation. We’re happy to report Mitel has a record of being one step ahead. We were the first to move to the cloud, and we were talking remote work well before it took over the working world. Make sure you can depend on your provider to support your requirements today and be ready with what you need tomorrow.

3. What Type Of Workforce Do You Need To Support?

In-person, remote, hybrid―chances are, your business needs to be able to support them all. Flexibility and scalability are the most important characteristics when it comes to meeting the needs of today’s ever-changing workforce.

What are the most important communications tools your staff needs to thrive no matter where they are? Some of the items that may be top of mind are a mobile-first design and a unified experience across devices.

Depending on your business, however, file sharing, archiving projects by subject or a personal dashboard for tracking to-do’s may be what your employees really need. Be certain the solution you select gives your employees a wide array of options when it comes to communicating and collaborating with each other. The system should make it easier to get work done, and employees should find it simple to use―from anywhere and on any device.

4. What UC Vendor Qualities Matter The Most For Success?

Every business will answer this question slightly differently, but you can’t go wrong by starting with the vendor’s reputation. What do their current customers say about them? What kind of success stories can they share?

And while a strong relationship can take time to develop, there’s still nothing wrong with trusting your gut. In your initial meetings, a vendor who tries to push a cookie-cutter solution that doesn’t exactly meet your needs is definite cause for concern.

Does the provider have a history of reliability? How focused are they on security? Do they make you feel confident your lines of communications will stay open no matter what challenges may arise? You should be able to rest easy knowing your long-term success is just as important to them as it is to you.

As organizations put more time and money into communications technology, it’s critical to properly assess your needs before you make any big investments.

This blog post was first published by Mitel.


11 Cyber Security Tips and Best Practices for Remote and Hybrid Workers

Remote work is all the rage, and it’s easy to see why. Employees want flexibility and freedom while executives want less overhead and more productivity. Since most businesses have already transitioned communications to the cloud, it just makes sense. 

However, as the number of remote teams and a hybrid workforce increases, the sophistication and amount of cybersecurity breaches have also, unfortunately, increased. For example, Google registered more than 2 million phishing sites in 2020, up from 1.7 million in 2019 (a 27% increase in one year). The number of identity thefts reported by the FTC doubled from 2019.  In addition to this, CybSafe reported that one-third of UK businesses have suffered a data breach in the past 12 months because of remote work.

New remote workers may not even be aware of what to look out for, while veterans may feel that the situation is hopeless. According to a recent IDG Research Services survey commissioned by Insight Enterprises, almost 80% of senior IT workers believe their organizations lack sufficient protection against cyberattacks despite increased IT security investments in 2020 and according to Shred-it, 86% of C-level executives believe that the risk of a data breach is higher when employees work remotely. 

There is hope, however. If your business takes care to implement the best cybersecurity practices now, it is much more likely that you will avoid a security nightmare and save your company from suffering a huge financial loss, and an even bigger headache.  

The Unique Security Challenges Of A Hybrid Workforce 

Cybersecurity is essential, whether your workers are in the office, hybrid, or remote. However, in-office workers are generally protected by layers of security when it comes to data and communication. Once workers move outside the office, new vulnerabilities appear. For example, an office network will likely be secured by firewalls, VPNs, antivirus software, and other measures to ensure VoIP security.  

Many home routers don’t have a firewall, and even home routers that double as a firewall may not be as secure as a business firewall. Even if VPNs and WiFi security software are installed on employee devices, once working remotely, those employees become solely responsible for keeping the software up-to-date.  

Many of the security vulnerabilities that come along with remote work can be minimized, however, with a few clear-cut policies, some training, and IT support for your remote workers. 

Checklist Of Best Practices

These best practices are generally accepted by cybersecurity professionals as being the most effective in preventing or at least minimizing a security breach. If your remote workforce is informed of these policies and, most importantly, agrees to put them into practice, you can rest assured that your company has the best protection against an attack.  

1. No Public Wi-Fi
Working out of a Starbucks may seem idyllic, but using their Wi-Fi can cause a host of problems. The lack of firewalls allows anyone using that network to easily hack into your company’s data. In fact, hackers that are on public networks anywhere that your data hits between you and your office can monitor traffic as it goes by.  If you still want to work from Starbucks, set up a personal hotspot and VPN. 

2. Be Aware of Surroundings
According to a study done by Code 42, a laptop is stolen every 53 seconds in airports alone. Losing a laptop is bad enough, but if there is a data breach on top of that, it could be a catastrophe. 

Instruct your remote workers not to be careless with their work laptops. If they happen to be working in a public space, they should remain alert. They should make sure that their sightlines are blocked, meaning, no one can sit behind them and watch/record everything they are doing. 

Employees should take their device with them to the restroom and avoid leaving it in a car (even a locked car). It is also important that remote workers keep the doors of their homes locked just as the office is locked up every night. 

3. Encrypt Stored Data

In the case that a device is stolen, you can avoid the disaster of a data breach if the data on your device is encrypted. Make sure that remote workers are all using devices that are set to encrypt all stored data. 

4. Do Not Use Personal Devices for Work

If your remote workers are using their own personal devices to conduct work on, chances are, they are exposing the company to a security breach. The protocols that your company has for keeping data safe such as regular updates, virus scans, and malicious site blocking are likely not being kept up by remote workers on their personal devices. 

Your remote worker may not be aware of all that your company does to keep data safe, for one, and secondly, your remote worker likely does not have the same budget for cybersecurity that you have for your business.  

5. Enable Email Encryption

Emails are another point of vulnerability for remote workers. Just as you want to ensure that all stored data is encrypted, it’s also a good idea to encrypt the data attached to any email, as this will prevent an unintended recipient from viewing the information. 

6. Don’t Allow Non-Employees To Access Work Devices

When it comes to cybersecurity, it’s important to keep as much control as possible over devices. Remote employees should never share their devices with non-employees. Even if it is someone they know, a non-employee who doesn’t understand your company’s security policies could unknowingly open up a pathway for malicious actors. 

This is true even if the non-employee only wants to use the employee’s work device as a temporary “charging station”. Additionally, some of your employees may be too trusting, and it is easier just to have an “employee only” policy than to have rules about who can and can’t use work devices. 

7. Disable All External Drives

USB thumb drives are some of the most popular vehicles for bad actors to use to install malware. These malicious actors would install malware onto 30 or 60 thumb drives and then distribute them where an unsuspecting worker would pick one up and, thinking it was theirs, plug it into their device. With the advancement of cloud storage solutions, there is almost never a reason to use an external drive of any type, USB or otherwise. Unless your employee is a photographer or videographer, you should disable all external drives on work devices.  

8. Password Policies

Your employees may unknowingly invalidate several expensive security measures if they have weak or repetitive passwords. Make sure that your company has a password policy in place instructing employees to choose strong, unique passwords and to have different passwords for different applications that they need to use for work. Work passwords should also be different from any personal passwords. 

9. Train Employees To Recognize Signs of a Breach And Report Immediately

The sooner your IT or security team finds out about a breach, the better the outlook will be. Train your employees to recognize the signs of a security breach and to report it as soon as possible to your IT or security team. Some things that should tip off your remote workers to a breach are: 

  • An alert from the anti-malware software indicating that a virus or malware is present.
  • A new homepage or default search engine comes up unexpectedly.
  • There is a sudden and significant decrease in performance.
  • There is a sudden increase in spam and pop-ups.
  • They are receiving frequent error messages.

10. Consider a Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) solution 

SASE is essentially an “as-a-Service” cloud solution that combines wide-area networking (WAN) with network security functions, cloud access security broker (CASB), firewall as a service (FWaaS), and zero-trust network access (ZTNA). SASE tools can identify malware, decrypt the content, and continuously monitor sessions for risk.

11. Keep Your Employees Away From Nefarious Websites

Torrent and pirating websites will obviously expose your business to a host of malware. Most companies will have a prohibition against employees going to such sites on work devices, but if it ever happens and one of your employees accidentally downloads a file of malware from a website of ill repute, firing them for breaking company policy will be of little solace. 

Here is a creative tip to keep your employees from ever breaking this very important rule in the first place: Use some of the money you save from transitioning to a remote or hybrid workforce to buy your employees subscriptions to reputable music and movie websites such as YouTube Premium, Disney+ or Netflix. This investment will serve double duty as a fun perk for your team as well as a strong deterrent to visit nefarious entertainment sites.  

Final Thoughts

Remote and hybrid work has become more appealing than ever to both employees and business owners, but the threat of a security breach is a big drawback. To address this, consider investing some of the savings you receive by going remote into a solid cybersecurity plan. If you implement the best cybersecurity practices now, you and your team will be able to enjoy all the benefits of remote work without the dark cloud of a security breach looming overhead.  

This blog post was first published by Mitel.


Report | Hybrid Working 2021

Customers accepted reduced service as companies shifted to working from home, but now expect a return to ‘normal service’ with improved response times and a stronger customer experience. Those that invest in good technology, rather than relying on declining customer goodwill, will generate a better experience and potentially stronger sales.

The challenge facing businesses is how to resume a professional service while simultaneously adapting to the new norm: hybrid working. The answer lies in empowering customer-facing staff with the right tools that not only let them work from home as seamlessly as they work from the office or call centre, but also allow customers to interact how they prefer, says Dave Harrison, head of sales and marketing at 4Sight Comms.

Businesses should start at the edge to understand staff needs, their precise roles and define what they need in terms of functionality and technology – this will be the blueprint for a business’ core platform. For example, a customer service agent at a startup may be perfectly suited to replying to customers via Whatsapp, either at home or in the office, while an established business with a higher customer count may need a more technological solution, such as an artificial intelligence-powered web chat.

Harrison says: “The right technology brings together the choice of the customer with the choice of the customer service agent, but at the same time maintains the security, control and analytical capability that you so desperately need as a business. That’s where 4Sight Communications comes in with our access to Mitel technology.”

Mitel powers more than 2 billion business connections with cloud, enterprise and next-generation collaboration applications. Its solutions are well adapted to hybrid working because agents can efficiently handle voice and digital media contacts anywhere from a ‘single pane of glass’ comprising phone, email, web chat, SMS and social media. This type of advanced technology delivers excellent customer service in a hybrid working environment because, according to Mitel’s own research, most customers would rather interact through digital channels including web chat, SMS, chatbots and social media.

Moreover, automated forms of self-service, such as chatbots and virtual agents, can help address many of today’s customer experience shortcomings. Research by Mitel indicates that these next-generation technologies translate into better forms of customer service. Therefore, businesses need to work out which channels their customers prefer and equip staff with the options to access them either from home or in the office.

The added benefit is that businesses can get their hands on analytics that provide valuable insights into employee performance and identify weak spots. Supervisors monitor and manage agent and queue performance and are alerted when service levels are below target. Live analytics include insights such as average response time per media channel. Historical analytics include call recording and quality monitoring, which provide supervisors with the ability to listen to and score agent interactions.

Harrison says: “A business can track the availability of agents irrespective of a hybrid working location. This gives businesses the ability to cope with customer demand both proactively, with an understanding of volumes and trends, and reactively should additional resources need to be added to cope with unexpected surges.”

The good news is that it’s never been easier or cheaper to tap into top tech. Businesses can sign up to an affordable, monthly subscription service to Mitel via 4Sight Communications, instead of allocating significant capital expenditure to a proprietary platform. All you need to do is work out what hybrid working means to you as a business and how customers want to interact.

Harrison says: “Businesses need to embrace change, find new lanes of opportunity and fill them with the right technology that empowers people to fulfil their working aspirations with the aspirations of the organisation that they’re working for.”

This article was first published by Raconteur.